In March, YouTube announced support for 360 video, signaling that 360 video as a format, and as a cousin of sorts to virtual reality, might see life beyond gimmickry. On the more intense end of the spectrum, brands and businesses are monkeying around with VR headsets, from Oculus Rift down to Google Cardboard, to create branded experiences in this much-buzzed about medium.
However, not everyone has access to a 360 camera rig, or the resources to develop for one of the current VR platforms. That's why a the combination of a camera like the Kodak Pixpro SP360 Action Cam and a platform like YouTube can serve as a solid way to learn about, experiment with, and produce immersive video, with a relatively low financial barrier.
Price: It varies from store to store, but you'll probably be in the $250-$300 range.
Dimensions: 41.1×50.0×52.1mm, excluding the glass cover
Storage: MicroSD or MicroSHD card, up to 32GB
Battery: Rechargeable Li-ion Battery LB-080, 3.6V 1250mAh, In-Action Cam Charging
Ports: USB 2.0 (Micro 5 pin USB) , HDMI (Type D)
Camera: 214° ultra wide lens, can record up to 1080p
Who is it for?
Undoubtedly, adventurers — anyone who thinks they do things exciting enough to warrant strapping a camera to themselves. But also, any brand or business with something to show off that would benefit from a 360 view can easily use this.
What problems does it solve?
If your business wants to experiment with a more immersive video experience, but you're not at the point where you want to devote the time, money, and resources to hop on the VR bandwagon all the way, the Kodak Pixpro SP360 camera lets you get into immersive video for really, just the price of the camera. Plus, if you've got something that customers should be seeing or experiencing in 360, then this camera will help you accomplish that.
Pixpro App - You can control the camera by downloading an app to your iPhone or Android. It gives you the option to view the footage in several different formats including, front mode, round mode, round mode 360 panorama, front 180 and rear 180. The app also gives you the option of uploading directly to Google Drive, or email — all the usual methods. If you're wanting to pull video, you're probably best grabbing it off the mini SD card, but if you want to quickly export a photo, then it's really nice to have that option.
Accessories - I reviewed the "Extreme" accessories pack, which means that aside from the camera, you get a whole bunch of accessories including a waterproof case, a regular case, flat and round helmet mounts, adhesives, three kinds of straps, and just about anything else you could want to affix the camera to you, your vehicle, or your headgear. If you plan on putting your camera through some, well, action, then this pack is well worth it.
Full HD video - The Pixpro also lets you just shoot full HD video, so it has functionality beyond shooting 360 video. That basic functionality will make it easier to justify as you're not just buying a $300 camera that does one cool trick. One thing that is worth noting, though, is that even though it's a 360 camera, that's basically just on a horizontal plane.
Minimal display - The Pixpro has a small digital display that lets you know when your device is connected. That's just about its best function. Technically, you can use the controls to toggle between modes and start and stop recording, but if you're in a position to use your phone instead, there's not a good reason you'd use the controls.
Reconnecting to the Wi-Fi - If you turn it off, or even just leave the app, you'll have to reconnect to the camera, and that gets old pretty quick.
Battery backing - The battery pops into the bottom of the camera. The backing doesn't feel super secure. And in fact, it did pop off at one point for me, which is not something you'd want if you are indeed, in the midst of action. The upside is that if you're using one of the housings, they will provide some extra security.
- Ricoh Theta (Though, this camera doesn't have much in the way of "action" functionality.)
- GoPro 360 camera array
Where to get more info
Bottom line for business
If you're looking to dabble in immersion, but not quite ready to get into VR, the Kodak Pixpro SP360 is a solid little camera that will let you produce 360 video without much fuss. It's rugged and relatively easy to use. Plus, the Kodak Pixpro SP 360 is one of the supported cameras on YouTube (so viewers can toggle around the video within the YouTube player), so you don't have to worry about where to put your videos and if they'll be easily viewed.
Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.